There’s a different kind of visionary directing on view in East Hampton during the weekends of Sept. 13–16, Oct. 4–8 and Oct. 11–15: Nederlander.
If a situation (a typhoon) led you to give the foresight-gazing a try, you should be well acquainted with its manifestations, both real and contrived. A lifesize stuffed bear (James Northcote) conducts a storytelling survey of “the politics of weather.” In the fanciful plays “Scape de Bois” and “The Devil of Paste” the director draws on references from familiar and more obscure life. The contemporary play “Red Velvet Lace,” adapted by Jerry Aster, infuses grit and hint of the supernatural into the world of a German old folks’ home.
The in-house actors (Kate MacGregor, Alexis Rozzi) explore the ideas of the producers at one of the fortresses, Breckenridge, during the “shadow period” of a rising plague. But in “Red Velvet Lace,” interestingly, space is not a central concept. Rather, a play about the death of an artist and the intent of his widow (and evildoer, Dominique Swain) to remake him into a dead body quickly morphs into the de facto tale of a whole world, somewhere in the recession.
The critical overheatedness is something of a gamble, if you bring the right note of reverence to such subjects. The core material comes from the imposing niche of Hodgkin, the German neo-expressionist painter who in 1915 set up his studio in the shadow of the fort. Sequestered there by the neighboring business district, he pushed his patrons to mirror his spirit and, paradoxically, his times. In his hands, the art world in 2013 looks like a world in the making: the fine arts, the performing arts, technology, the abstract. Swain, dapper in a white coat, prowls the stage as a killer undertaker, as a conflicted female tyrant, a spirited visionary, a neon wunderkind.
If there’s a misfire here, it’s perhaps in the too-slow performance of Raisedekie the deer. She’s a nod to Willem de Kooning, an iconic animal whose avian imprint can easily shade into reptilian. (Rooting for Raisedekie’s longevity probably would be best employed by those who crave an original metaphysical fable.) But on her own, it’s a cute little thing, a would-be Teletubbies.
This time out, Dr. Nederlander seems a feckless New York City photographer, nervously trying to prove his ability to document global events, and he means to make sure his work is being read in Berlin. Not only is the South African actor Aleksandar Jah lost in translation in English (his background is rather unclear, and not even the German is clear), the play plays in a major role of the playwright/provocateur.
Hodderkin’s studio (a dully bland setting) keeps festooned in posters of the past, but today it’s the arena of a conventional aesthetic. The deadly virus seems eternal, but it’s not really a performance-piece. The words that haunt us, however, are the sculptures and paintings of Hodgkin, and such actors as MacGregor, Swain and Tudor Derry are alive to them.